Hungary is no longer a democracy, Poland is about to go down the same path, democracy in the Balkans is eroding because of Chinese and Russian influence, and the EU is doing nothing to stop it all, according to the NGO Freedom House’s latest Nations in Transit report, out Wednesday.
In the study, which covers 29 countries from Central Europe to Central Asia, the authors describe “a stunning democratic breakdown,” saying that there are “fewer democracies in the region today than at any point since the annual report was launched in 1995.”
According to the report’s methodology, Hungary is now a “hybrid regime,” having lost its status as a “semi-consolidated democracy” due to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s continued assaults on the country’s democratic institutions.
The adoption of an emergency law that allows the government to rule by decree indefinitely, brought in after the coronavirus pandemic struck, “has further exposed the undemocratic character of Orbán’s regime,” the authors wrote, adding that “Hungary’s decline has been the most precipitous [they have] ever tracked.”
Poland isn’t far behind, according to the report, which says there have been spectacular attacks on the judiciary by the ruling Law and Justice party.
And Brussels gets much of the blame.
“Neither Poland nor Hungary has faced repercussions for damaging the rule of law at home, and Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has even remained a member of the mainstream European People’s Party, the largest grouping in the European Parliament,” according to the report, adding that U.S. President Donald Trump has also “failed to stand up for democracy in the region.”
The report also has serious concerns about the Balkans.
“Years of … strongman tactics employed by Aleksandar Vučić in Serbia and Milo Đukanović in Montenegro have tipped those countries over the edge,” it says. “For the first time since 2003, they are no longer categorized as democracies.”
The assessment comes on the day of an EU-Balkans summit, which was supposed to be held in Croatia but will now take place over videolink.
The Freedom House report says foreign influence has been a destabilizing factor.
“In addition to Russia’s continued malign influence, China has been advancing an ambitious foreign policy in practically all of the region’s 29 countries,” the authors say.
“Xi Jinping’s regime is not so much spreading its own one-party model as it is spreading its influence … taking advantage of institutional weaknesses, and wedging itself into corrupt political and economic structures.”